Archive for June, 2008

ALA schedule so far

Posted in ALA on June 16th, 2008

Of course I’ll be at the 2008 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim–and if you’d like to chat over a drink or whatever, let me know in advance. (I’ll have a cell phone, mostly for emergency use; if you want the number to text me with a possible several-hour delay for receipt, send me email before Friday, June 26.)

Here’s my schedule so far, with mandatory or nearly-mandatory items in boldface. Open times are, so far, open. (I’d love to attend a couple of LITA interest groups–but so far, as usual, it’s hard to find out what most of them are planning to talk about, although it’s always fun to de-spam the LITA Wiki while attempting to find out):

Friday, June 27, 2008

  • American Eagle 3122, San Jose 10:05 a.m.-Orange County 11:30 a.m.
  • Staying at the Hilton Anaheim
  • 5-6ish?: WebJunction reception, Marriott Salon A-D
  • 5:30-8 (some part): LITA Happy Hour, Mist Pool Bar, Hotel Menger

Saturday, June 28, 2008

  • 8-9 a.m.: LITA IG and Committee Chair meeting, Crowne Plaza, Cabo San Lucas B
  • 10:3-12: LITA Committee Chairs, Marriott 304
  • 1:30-3: LITA Publications Committee, Hyatt Salon I
  • 4-5:30: Science Fiction and Fantasy: IT and individual rights, Convention Center 304 A/B

Sunday, June 29, 2008

  • Morning: Exhibits unless later appointments come into play.
  • 1:30-3:30: Get the Word Out: How to Do It/Marketing for Small and Rural Libraries (speaking), Hilton, Pacific Ballroom B.
  • 5:30-8 (some part): OCLC Bloggers’ Salon, Hilton, Avila Palisades - note change in room.

Monday, June 30, 2008

  • 10:30-1: Private PLN-related meetings (includes lunch).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

  • American Eagle 3161, Orange County 1:15 p.m.-San Jose 2:30 p.m.

Best chances to run into me without prior arrangements: on Friday, the LITA Happy Hour (prob. 6:30-8ish); on Saturday, the LITA Publications Committee; on Sunday, the program I’m speaking at–and it should be an interesting program (since there are four other people who know what they’re talking about) and, to be sure, the OCLC Bloggers Salon.

If you’d like to get together for drinks, lunch, dinner, whatever, or if you know of a LITA IG that’s likely to suit my tastes, let me know in advance–as usual, I travel without technology and don’t expect to check email during the conference.

South from Alaska: A few quick notes on Holland America and our recent vacation

Posted in Travel on June 16th, 2008

I thought I’d written up our (somewhat negative) experiences with Holland America Lines — HAL, “those dam ships” — back when I did a “cruising” series. Apparently not. In any case, the vacation we recently returned from was a third HAL cruise, and I think some notes are in order–especially because Holland America did a much better job this time than the first two times around.

The cruise was marketed as a 14-day Vancouver roundtrip, but was also clearly a combination of two seven-day Alaska cruises: Vancouver to Seward northbound and Seward to Vancouver southbound. We were surprised by the number of people who took the (presumably somewhat discounted) 14-day option; I didn’t count, but it must have been a couple of hundred out of the 1,400-passenger ship.

It was our fifth cruise in Alaska. We did it partly because we really needed a vacation (not having had a real vacation in two years or a cruise in three years), partly because a dear friend of ours agreed to our suggestion to see Alaska.

The last three Alaska cruises were 12-night round trips out of San Francisco on Crystal Harmony: A great itinerary for people living in the SF Bay Area who love Crystal. Well, that cruise no longer exists–NYK, Crystal’s parent company, renamed the Crystal Harmony and now uses it (as the Aoka II, I think) for luxury cruising in Japan. The two remaining Crystal ships summer in the Mediterranean. Our first Alaska cruise was southbound Whittier to Vancouver on the Regent Sea, a long time ago (15 or 20 years): The Regent Sea is at the bottom of the ocean and its parent company, Regency, long since disappeared.

I wouldn’t attempt to compare Crystal and Holland America Line (HAL) directly; that’s not really fair, since they’re in different market segments (Crystal is a luxury line, HAL is a premium line, which is a lower category than luxury) and have considerably different fares (if Crystal still did this cruise, I’d guess we’d pay about 50%-75% more than we did on HAL). On the other hand, the comparison isn’t as ludicrous as it would have been last time we were on HAL.

First, a quick note about the cruise itself: A great way to see southeast Alaska in a relaxed fashion. We stopped twice in Juneau and Ketchikan–with shore excursions one time, exploring on our own the other time–and cruised twice in Glacier Bay (spectacular both times, with a truly astonishing calving the second time) and College Fjord (somewhat disappointing: it seemed much more spectacular 15-20 years ago), plus one stop each in Seward, Skagway and Haines. Seward was new to us and easily explored on foot–and I will say that the last-minute $20 shuttle + SeaLife Center shore excursion was fairly priced, since tickets at the SeaLife Center were, um, $20 (the shuttle–Seward’s own little trolley-car–was free for the day for all HAL passengers, a $3 savings over their regular operation). The other ports–well, they’re all great, and we’ve been to all of them before, and enjoyed them again.

Now, as to HAL, or specifically the Zaandam (all HAL ships end in “dam,” and they use “those dam ships” on various shipboard merchandise):

  • On previous cruises, we hated the way they handled shore excursions: Get in one line, get a sticker on your shirt, wait in a theater, get in another line… Now, they’ve adopted the same procedure as Crystal and Regent Seven Seas: “You’re adults. Here’s your ticket. There’s the time. Meet at the pier/bus/whatever.” No crowding, no superfluous lines, no extra 45 minutes to gather up everybody, no stickers. Bravo.
  • On previous cruises, the beef had ranged from mediocre to too tough to eat. (I gave up on a prime rib end cut halfway through: the taste wasn’t worth the effort.) Much improved–the beef ranged from good to excellent.
  • On previous cruises, the chicken had also been tough. Again, much improved–the chicken was generally quite good.
  • On previous cruises, “plating” had been inflexible: You ordered a main dish and got the starch, vegetable and sauce that came with it–period. This time, we found considerable flexibility, at least with our waiter: You could substitute items from other choices, and one person at our table had rice with every entree, always with some sauce for one of the other entrees.
  • On previous cruises, portions tended to be too large. This time, most portions were plausible–you could eat the full five-course dinner (appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert) and not be bloated or have to be rolled off the ship. Sometimes, still a bit large, but mostly reasonable. (After two weeks, I was up three pounds, which went away again after three or four days; my wife actually lost a pound or two. And we were both eating most courses at most meals.) After all, you could always order something extra (or, during the day, just pick up a slice of pizza or make your own taco or get another dessert or get a fresh burger any time from 11:30 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m.)–but it always feels odd to leave a meal half-eaten.
  • Boarding had been mildly cumbersome last time, although not horrendous: Actually fairly typical, with Crystal and Regent Seven Seas only slightly better. This time, with the ability to fill in immigration information online and print out boarding passes, boarding was as fast and smooth as I’ve ever seen it on a cruise ship. (We haven’t been on Crystal or RSS recently…)
  • Smoking was a big problem in pretty much every space except the main restaurant last time around. This time, while still a problem (my wife’s asthmatic), it was considerably better: Even outdoor dining areas for the Lido restaurant are non-smoking except for one little back-of-the-ship area that’s fully isolated, there seemed to be less smoke in most lounges and, wonder of wonders, the casino was non-smoking on some days. Since the casino always seemed busier when it was nonsmoking (and since on smoking days you’d get one jackass puffing up a storm as he explored the entire casino, assuring that we all got plenty of second-hand smoke), a number of us suggested that they cut off smoking altogether. Actually, there’s another indication of progress: They held some focus groups (we weren’t invited but heard from someone who was) and asked about complete smoking bans, to pretty much total applause–including one smoker who said she’d rather be in a smoke-free environment on vacation and just do without for a week. And the end-of-cruise survey included an extra sheet asking three questions all related to a total ban on smoking on board. There may yet be hope…
  • HAL hotel staff have always been good but seemed much better this time; we had people remembering our names after one encounter, we had dining crew joking with us, the whole scene felt even better. On at least one previous cruise, ship staff (the people who maintain and run the ship, as opposed to the cabin attendants and restaurant crew) seemed a little put out by having passengers on board. This time, they either weren’t around or seemed much better. No complaints here.
  • Note that we weren’t getting special top-dollar treatment. We didn’t even have a balcony cabin; we were in 2nd-deck outside cabins, not that far up from the lowest categories. (The verandah cabins and mini-suites were all sold out when we booked, a mere seven months ahead, and we wouldn’t have paid for full suites anyway.)
  • With one exception, any problems we had were handled quickly and well. The exception, a window that was half blocked by condensation trapped between the two layers, really couldn’t be handled while at sea, but HAL gave us a more than satisfactory accommodation for only having half a view.
  • In general, the public spaces were nicer and the food and service were better than on previous HAL cruises. They claim that they’re improving their operation; although it’s been several years’ gap for us, I’m inclined to believe them.

Not perfect, to be sure, but what is? We could have done without the cruise director’s lengthy morning and lunchtime announcements of all the activities that are listed in the daily paper, although at least there weren’t loads of announcements during the day. The chair and sofa upholstery in our cabin could use cleaning and seem a little tired; even 8 years of cruising is hard on fabric. Some shore excursions seemed scheduled at needlessly difficult times. But, you know, none of those would rise to be particularly noteworthy.

The one real negative item happened at the end of the cruise, and I think it’s a good idea that hasn’t quite been worked out properly. To wit, debarkation–in our case, with a special twist. Debarkation is a problem on most cruise ships, with the tendency to force everyone to sit around in lounges after leaving their cabins too early, listening to dozens of announcements. Supposedly, Princess is fixing this; let’s hope their solution works and catches on. By today’s standard, the Zaandam is medium-sized to small (1,400 passengers–today’s BIG ships carry 2,600 to 3,000 or more). They said they were using a new streamlined procedure without announcements and that you could just stay in your cabin until it was your time to go.

But…they also offered, and promoted heavily, a special baggage-handling opportunity: For $16 a person, if we were flying directly to the U.S. from Vancouver on the day of debarkation (which we were), we could have our boarding passes in hand and our checked bags already airline-tagged on the ship. Thus, instead of the usual routine in these cases–get off the ship, identify our bags from the mass of bags for our group, watch as handlers put them on the bus to the airport, claim them again at the airport, wheel them to the airline, have baggage tags attached, deal with Canadian and U.S. immigration, then finally go through security–we’d just get off the ship, go on a special “locked” bus into a special area of the airport, and go through security. There were idle comments about it taking up to two hours to get through the process at Vancouver; I have no idea whether those comments were true.

Well, our flight was at 1 p.m. We signed up for the program, assuming it would mean we’d be able to stick around until at least 9 or 9:30 a.m. before leaving for the airport.

Wrong. Everyone who signed up for the program and was using HAL transportation to the airport ($25, and we’d already signed up for that) had to be in the big showroom at 7:15 a.m.

7:15 a.m. Ghastly. As bad as in the bad old days. That’s five hours and 45 minutes before our flight–and we knew that it was at worst about 30 minutes from the pier to the airport.

We weren’t even the worst cases: We were in Group 3 of 5; later groups included people with flights leaving 4 p.m. or later!

So instead of being able to get up a little early, have a reasonable breakfast, freshen up and roll down at 9 or 9:30–or even 8:30–we had the usual get up too early, have a rushed Lido breakfast, rush through preparation…

So there we were, all standing around and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

The process didn’t start at all until 7:45 a.m. Our group wasn’t called until 8:15 or 8:30 a.m. And when we were called, we went off the ship…and got into a nice long line. I think we got on the bus at somewhere between 9 and 9:15. As I remember, we finally got through airport security around 10:15-10:30–three hours after we had to be in the showroom, but only two hours before boarding would begin.

The idea’s good, I think, but the execution was lousy. I surmise they called us all together so they’d make sure we got the instructions right–but that’s unacceptable. They should reasonably have known that Groups 3, 4, and 5 had no reason to be off the ship before (say) 8:30 or 9:30 or maybe 11 or 12 for group 5, and should have staged things so we weren’t sitting around interminably.

It’s interesting that cruise lines haven’t solved the debarkation problem: You can lose a lot of good will in that last process. In this case, I’ll charitably assume they just don’t have the bugs worked out yet, and a lot of it has to do with HAL’s old shore-excursion attitude. Assume that we’re adults, that we can handle written instructions, and arrange things accordingly: We’ll all be happier!

Debarkation aside, HAL did a good job. Oh, did I mention the string quartet? My wife and our friend were devoted to this group, the Azalea Strings, playing every evening in one of the lounges, with a wide repertoire and excellent ensemble. I heard enough to know they’re first-rate; I just wasn’t as much in the string-quartet mood. (It’s not all reggae and piano bar on board!)

[Will we take HAL again? Probably--but we didn't sign up for a British Isles 2009 cruise that looked good for an interesting reason HAL can't help with: The air fare would have been almost as much as the cruise.]

When did creative work become worthless?

Posted in Books and publishing, Cites & Insights, Copyright, Writing and blogging on June 15th, 2008

Yes, the post title is an overstatement–but the situation described below struck me as peculiar enough to deserve a little hyperbole. It relates to Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change and three posts (and related comments) on two liblogs. The posts and comments all happened in late May, while I was incommunicado (on vacation and only checking work-related email once every couple of days at fairly high shipboard internet prices).

Before getting to the posts and comments, I want to be very clear about one thing: This is not about rejecting negative criticism.

To drive that point home, I was doing some ego-Googling (which I rarely do, although not for lack of ego) and encountered a terse review of Balanced Libraries that I hadn’t seen earlier. The review appeared on Goodreads and was written by Jack (I think you have to join Goodreads to find out who Jack is). Here’s the review, in full:

“Generally just classic Crawford: long-winded, rambling, reactionary rhetoric. “

My comment? That’s an honest opinion stated clearly and presumably after reading the book. I have no problem with it.

But this other combination is something else–not a negative review of the book (which I’d link to or quote) but, well, something else.


It begins with “Where Are Blogs Bred? In the Heart Or In the Head?,” posted by Keith Kisser on May 27, 2008 at The Invisible Library (http://sanchezkisser.com/blog/). Kisser recently published a science fiction novel, The Machine of the World, on Lulu, and was searching Amazon to see whether it showed up yet. It hadn’t (and still hasn’t, which is odd); instead, he found Balanced Libraries,where I’d quoted from one of his blog posts. (The post favored Netflix-style library service and included a charming statement ending in “time to wait for the dinosaurs to die off.” You’ll find it in Kisser’s archive on December 8, 2006.)

Kisser doesn’t comment on the book itself or the context for the quotation, since he hadn’t read it. But he does have opinions about having a blog post show up in a book. Some of what he says:

But one thing I am, is uncertain about how I feel about being cited in this or any other book. At first go, it’s a little flattering to have my opinions taken into consideration, even if, as I gather from the few pages I’ve read online, …Walt Crawford is criticizing me. That’s fine. Healthy debate is great and I’m a big boy and can handle it. But what remains uncertain at this point (because again, I haven’t read the whole book yet) is the context…

The thing is, my blog is a rough draft of ideas that are constantly changing and evolving. Some library blogs are more academic (i.e. judiciously worded) and take topics at a more in-depth, analytical perspective. I do that sometimes but I’m not above tossing off a half baked idea, contradicting myself later, or criticizing reactionary librarians or critics of libraries with impertinent language. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to. And anyone is free to read, link or cite my words as they see fit. It’s a wide and woolly Internet and I neither hide my identity nor suffer the delusion that a blog is somehow a private forum. If you can read it on the Internet, it isn’t private or secret.

But just how public and in what capacity a blog, any blog is, has yet to be defined…. [Notes that his blog ranges widely...] You see the problem here? In which context was my post cited? Is it Academic Librarian Keith being cited or Geek Keith? Maybe it’s Slightly Sleepy and a Little Cranky with a Side of Silly Keith?…

Blogs are still too new to have a defined space in the academic world…. How do you treat blogs? As Journals or diaries? Thy can be both and at the same time. It’s nutty. And confusing, And wonderful. But mostly confusing.

I’d challenge some of the last two paragraphs

  • I think we’re long past the point where “how public…a blog is” has yet to be defined. An open blog–one anybody can reach (as opposed to some LiveJournal blogs and other protected blog) is a series of publications. It’s public. Each post is a publication. People have been quoting from blog posts in articles and books almost since there have been blogs. For that matter, it’s fair to assume that a lot more people will read Kisser’s post as quoted here or in Cites & Insights than will read it as quoted in Balanced Libraries, since it’s wildly unlikely that I’ll ever sell 1,500 to 2,500 copies of the book (roughly the average daily readership here and typical first-two-months readership for C&I).
  • I provided date and address for the post, as I did for all quoted posts. That allows any reader to find the context–typically a lot more easily than they could find the context for a quotation from print, where the reader might or might not have access to the original. I quoted Keith Kisser talking about library services; it’s not up to me to guess “which Keith Kisser” was writing the post. I’m prone to changing opinions and issuing rough drafts here as well–but I know that, once posted, they’re published statements suitable for citation.
  • “Academic world” is a red herring, since Balanced Libraries isn’t an academic work and I’m not an academic.

Actually, I was a little astonished that, in 2008, someone would be questioning the appropriateness of quoting from a blog post in more formal literature. That train left the station a long time ago, and I really don’t think there ever was a question. (People have been quoting elist posts in formal literature for many, many years, and that’s never been much of an issue either, as long as the elists are public.)

The first commenter, Jenny, thought it was great that Kisser was cited in a book. In part:

Does it really matter in what context you were cited? Someone took an idea you blogged about because it sparked an idea they had and ran with it. Isn’t that part of the point of a blog? To create wider discourse? And, even if Crawford did use your blog entry out of context at least you’ll always have something to rant about at dinner parties.

To which Kisser responded:

True. Though I’m less concerned about how he quoted me in particular and more interested in the idea of blogs being quoted in a scholarly paper as a general concept. I’ve also found out more about the circumstances of this citation in particular. I’ll have an update soon.

Somehow Balanced Libraries now shifted from being a book to being academic to being “a scholarly paper.” In any case, blog posts have showed up in formal refereed articles for years as well, so that general concept is also settled. Blog posts in non-pseudonymous blogs are signed publications.

I would have posted some of this as a comment–but, although comments do appear, Kisser later closed the post to comments, so that wasn’t possible. I might have left it at that, particularly since I really don’t think there’s any serious controversy about the public, citable, quotable status of public blog posts. (What part of “public” don’t you understand?)

But wait…there’s more!


On May 28, 2008 (the next day), Kisser posted “Not-So-Balanced Libraries.” He begins by noting that he’d wondered aloud “about the context of such citations and the weird gray area inhabited by blogs in the academic world.” (Again: My book isn’t academic and the area isn’t all that gray…but never mind.) He “did a little more research” leading to my website and a link to the book at Lulu.com. (The Amazon record he originally found isn’t for the Lulu edition, it’s for the CreateSpace edition–but, again, never mind.) And here’s where it gets interesting. Since this is all about me and I’m commenting on it, I do believe that fair use applies, so I’m quoting the rest of the post in full:

This in no way invalidates his book, or thesis, but neither does it really inspire much confidence. Let’s be honest–and this is coming from a fellow Lulu author–self published academic work tends to have a certain… charm, shall we say. It’s good to know others are getting their work out there independently and for all I know, Walt Crawford is the unsung, Tom Paine of the library world. But seriously, Walt, $29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free. I could understand maybe asking for donations. Charging a buck or two is acceptable, if you want to be a dick. But $20 for a PDF is madness. Like, RIAA suing tween music downloaders for their parent’s retirement fund level of madness. Cory Doctorow explains why. Bad form, Walt.

The only thing worse than not making an ebook available (especially when self publishing the book on Lulu, where that option is free and as easy as clicking a single button) is charging such a ridiculous price for it. This is one of those really easy web 2.0 ideas that often get ignored by library administrators because they either can’t or won’t change their minds about access and distribution models. If charging people for ebooks is part of your idea of creating a balanced library, I’m not impressed. And neither am I willing to spend $30 bucks for some out-to-lunch academic’s pet project.

Well now. First he says that publishing through Lulu doesn’t inspire much confidence–and, frankly, I agree. If I didn’t already have a reputation (for good or for bad) through 12 traditionally-published books and a few hundred traditionally-published articles and columns, and through Cites & Insights, I would never have attempted the Lulu trick for a nonfiction book. “Walt Crawford” is the only real brand here, for better or worse.

I’m hardly the “unsung Tom Paine of the library world.” Kisser’s never heard of me. No reason he should have. But a few thousand others have–well, tens of thousands in the case of the Library 2.0 special.

“$29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free.” Sez who? Cory Doctorow? I haven’t adopted Doctorow as a guru. The $29.50 price is, to put it bluntly, cheap for a 247-page trade paperback on current technological issues in the library field. Every similar work that I’m aware of costs at least $35, with one going for more than $100. But that’s not really the issue. The issue is whether an author is obliged to give away his or her work for free, as long as it’s in downloadable form.

Kisser seems to think that they are–”Downloads are free.” He even says that charging a buck or two is only acceptable “if you want to be a dick” and seems to equate my $20 price with RIAA’s infringement suits.

In the final paragraph, Kisser once again calls me an academic–this time an “out-to-lunch academic.” And somehow my belief that authors can request some compensation for their work (done on their own time) is “part of [my] idea of creating a balanced library.” I’ll cop to that: I don’t believe that balanced libraries set out to make authorship worthless, even though they can, do, and should provide free (prepaid via taxes or tuition) access to written materials. (I assume that the few dozen libraries that purchased Balanced Libraries circulate it, and would certainly hope so!)

This is, to put it mildly, bullshit. Writing a book is hard work. To assert that an author is at best clueless and at worst “a dick” or worse because the author doesn’t give that work away is insulting and offensive…and devalues creative effort. If an author wants to follow Doctorow’s approach, more power to them. That doesn’t make it the only correct or honorable approach. In fact, the whole “give it away so your true fans will buy other stuff” meme works badly for writers and even worse for niche writers.

Again, I would have protested directly on the blog–but again, although there are comments, comments are closed. So I would have commented in an essay on copyright balance about the dystopian notion that you’re obliged to give it away if it can be distributed digitally.

Except for the linked post and the comments on that post…


There’s really only one comment and a trackback, and the comment is from the person who wrote the blog post that’s tracked back: Aaron at SemiConscious Dot Org. (www.semiconscious.org). His May 29, 2008 post is entitled “Library 1.87” and is brief enough to quote in full:

What’s daffier than daffy?

Writing a book about the future of libraries (you know, those places where they lend books to people)… and then charging twenty dollars to download it.

Who out there has the pun, the barb, the eloquent poison-pen quip, to sum up the silliness of this situation in devastating fashion? Let’s hear ‘em. Seriously, I’m tapped out. I got nothin’…

I’ll admit that, until then, I was unaware that all other books about libraries were free in ebook form–that, somehow, writing about a place that lends books requires you not to charge for your book. There’s a logical chain there, but I’m too dim to see it.

“Keith” (presumably Kisser, but I don’t know that) noted that you could get an estimate of what the book actually costs to manufacture. Actually, you can get a precise figure. Keith mistakenly assumes that I’m dealing with retail markup because there’s an ISBN (there’s no ISBN on the Lulu edition) and says I’m “charging twice as much as the printed edition for a download” which he calls “a clear cut case of shenanigans.” Actually (and I got this wrong in my comment–Aaron’s blog does have comments open), my net proceeds come to $15.94 for the paperback version via Lulu (less via Amazon) and $16 for the download–a six cent difference, hardly “twice as much.” Am I overcharging for the paperback? Well, I’m charging less than the going rate for such books… As for “shenanigans,” since the prices are clearly stated, the costs are readily available, and nobody’s forcing anyone to buy the book, I can’t imagine what Keith has in mind.

Ah, but then there’s the capper, from “StaciB”:

Clearly, he’s writing for an incredibly gullible audience. Which tells me how little he knows about libraries and librarians in the first place. And just as clearly, he’s more interested in making money than in making sense. How about “Techno-twerp exploits self-defeating prophesy.”

See how we’ve progressed? Now it’s appropriate to attack me as “writing for an incredibly gullible audience” and I can’t know much about libraries or librarians–all because I’m asking to be paid for my work by those who wish to read it.

This is character assassination and I think it’s wildly inappropriate. StaciB doesn’t know who I am. None of them seem to be aware that I give away the equivalent of four typical books a year (in Cites & Insights), not to mention this blog, or that I have–I believe–reasonably well established that I know a little bit about libraries and librarians. Anyone who understands library publishing at all knows that, if I was “more interested in making money than in making sense,” the last thing I’d be doing is writing self-published books on librarianship–or even traditionally-published books! Speaking, column writing, consulting, greeting folks at Wal-Mart: All better paid gigs than the Lulu books are likely to be.

I did write a response to this post and the comments–and, again, I’ll quote it in full (it’s my work!), even noting that my “$13″ estimate was wrong…

I have a simple response for this post and the two comments: Nobody is requiring you or anyone else to buy either the download or the print book.

If you’re offended by a writer who actually hopes to have some small compensation for the effort involved in writing a book, so be it. I disagree. Nobody paid me to do this, done entirely on my own time. There’s no way I’m going to earn Big Bucks on a PoD book in librarianship. With a LOT of luck I might earn minimum wage for the time spent on the book…

Keith: No shenanigans. The Lulu edition doesn’t have an ISBN, only the Amazon/CreateSpace version. In fact, you can determine EXACTLY how much I’m receiving for the downloaded or print versions from Lulu itself (it’s about $13 for the print version, $16 for the download—I’d prefer that people buy the print version, but offered the download because people asked for it).

StaciB: I could refer you to those “incredibly gullible” librarians (such as John Dupuis and Pete Smith). For that matter, I could refer you to my dozen traditionally-published books in the library field (beginning with MARC for Library Use) to demonstrate how little I know about libraries and librarians. But, since it’s clear that I’m more interested in making money than in making sense (presumably why I’ve been giving away Cites & Insights for seven years now), I’ll just bow to your superior wisdom. It must be nice to be able to make such crack judgments about my knowledge and abilities with such utter clarity.

And that’s where it stands. Apparently, some folks believe that it is wrong for an author to ask for compensation for his writing. I disagree. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to give it away if that suits your needs. I think that, for a few people, giving away the downloadable version will sell the print version–and that’s great. (I gave away three chapters of Balanced Libraries, to be sure, but via Cites & Insights.) I’m fairly sure that, if the attitudes expressed here become universal, a whole lot of specialized writing just won’t get done, unless it’s by people who are otherwise sponsored.

50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends, Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on June 12th, 2008

The Town Went Wild, 1944, b&w. Ralph Murphy (dir.), Freddie Bartholomew, Jimmy Lydon, Edward Everett Horton, Tom Tully, Jill Browning, Maude Eburne, Jimmy Conlin. 1:17 [1:05]

What dramatic sweep: Incest, infectious diseases, breaking and entering, family feuds, fistfights, two trials… Well, OK, it’s a screwball romantic comedy—with emphasis on the screwball. The son of one feuding neighbor runs off with the daughter of the next-door feuding neighbor to elope in a nearby town—with the daughter’s brother finding transportation and cover. (The son’s on his way to Alaska, for reasons that aren’t quite clear. That’s important because he needs a copy of his birth certificate. Wait for it. Turns out they can’t get married yet: They have to wait three days after the license is issued, and it gets published in the meantime.

Meanwhile, the clowns at city hall (in the first town) discover that two birth certificates may have been switched—and, in an immediate court hearing, the sons are told that they belong with each other’s family (there’s no real proof, but they both have a birthmark that should identify one of them). Which, if you think about it…well, bad enough that the kid would now be marrying his sister (I didn’t make up anything in the first sentence), but they conclude that they’ll all go to prison because of the marriage license. So Steps Must Be Taken…which lead to another trial involving both fathers and their employer. (Measles are involved, not to spoil even more of the plot.)

It’s all played with great energy by a talented cast. As presented in this print, it’s really too short to be a full-fledged feature, but it plays like a brisk screwball comedy without big holes in the plot. The sound track’s a little iffy at times, and the video and sound are a bit out of synch. (That happens in some of the movies, but is usually corrected a few minutes in. Not so this time.) Those flaws and the brevity of the flick bring it down to $1.25.

The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955, b&w. Otto Preminger (dir.), Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, Robert Strauss, John Conte, George E. Stone. 1:59.

The real stuff—not the most pleasant movie in the world, but powerful and well-acted. Frank Sinatra plays the title role, Frankie Machine, where “golden arm” refers to his skill as an (illegal) poker dealer, his newfound talent as a drummer—and, to be sure, all the gold that gets pumped into his arm, one needle at a time. He gets off the dope and quits the illegal gambling after getting out of treatment—or at least he tries, but his wife (who appears to be wheelchair-bound after an accident he’s responsible for) wants him to stick with what he knows. There’s a very brief scene midway where it becomes clear that she’s faking the physical disability; in some ways, she’s more of an enabler than the slick pusher.

Kim Novak plays the girlfriend with heart, brains and determination—and does a superb job, as does Sinatra (who won an Oscar nomination for the role). For that matter, Darren McGavin as the dealer is first rate also. So is Eleanor Parker as the wife.

It’s a gritty, well-written, well-acted downer, and a true classic. The plot plays well throughout—as we watch someone get pulled back in to his bad old ways, and eventually go cold turkey in a fairly harrowing sequence. The print’s generally quite good, and the sound’s good enough to support Elmer Bernstein’s first-rate jazz score (another Oscar nomination). I don’t know that I’d watch it again, but can’t possibly give it less than $2.

High Voltage, 1929, b&w. Howard Higgin (dir.), William Boyd, Carole Lombard, Owen Moore, Phillips Smalley, Billy Bevan, Diane Ellis. 1:03.

An odd title for an odd short flick with a fine cast. The setup requires a fair amount of disbelief: A coach or bus apparently going from Sacramento to Reno during a huge snow storm. When it stops for gas, the station attendant says they’ll never make it through and should stop there, but the blowhard driver says he can make it. Passengers include one banker, one young woman on the way to meet her fiancée, and a cop taking a woman (Carole Lombard) back East to serve out a prison sentence. The last two are on their way to catch a train, as is (I believe) the young woman. The film is set in a time when there are not only buses but airplanes—but, apparently, either no train running from Sacramento east or the train’s so unreliable that it makes more sense to ride a bus out into a huge snowstorm. I suppose there was such a period, but it’s a little implausible.
Naturally, the bus gets stuck. Somehow, it’s 40 miles to the nearest city or town—but there’s a church close enough so the stranded group can see it and make their way there. Where they find a hobo (William Boyd), who (it turns out) is also on the lam. (You may know William Boyd by the character he played in about 70 movies and 40 TV shows starting in 1935: Hopalong Cassidy. He’s a lot darker here!)

That’s the setup. The guy who’s already there has some food but probably not enough for the ten days he estimates they’ll be there (based on nothing obvious). There’s some jockeying for position, some shoving around, some threats… and mostly lots of talk and very little of anything else, although the hobo (who pretty much takes command) does manage to push them all out to get some fresh air, leading to two of them falling through ice (and being rescued). The hobo starts to go off in the night with the woman on her way back to prison (he knows of a ranger station ten miles away)—but then a plane starts circling overhead, he can’t go through with abandoning the others, and they agree to serve their time and move on from there. (Sorry for the plot spoilers, but there’s not much plot here to spoil.)

So I guess it’s a drama of tension among half a dozen stranded types. I suppose, but hardly enough tension to justify the title. Reasonably well acted. Some film damage. One real oddity: The opening credits refer to the characters as archetypes—The Boy, The Girl, The Detective, and so on—even though they all have names in the movie. Knowing the date does make a difference: This is a very early talkie. I’ll give it $1.

The Hoosier Schoolboy, 1937, b&w. William Nigh (dir.), Mickey Rooney, Anne Nagel, Frank Shields, Edward Pawley, William Gould, Dorothy Vaughan. 1:02.

Ostensibly, this movie’s about a kid from the wrong side of the tracks and the new schoolteacher who—after almost being sent packing because she might be a labor agitator—tries to redeem him and his drunken war-hero father. But the plot is equally about a “milk strike,” with dairy farmers who worked with a “cooperative” dairy, whose owner is now underpricing them under difficult circumstances. Or maybe it’s about the new schoolteacher, possibly too spunky for her own good, and the seemingly-playboy son of the dairy owner who wants to make everything right (and win her affection).

That’s a lot of plot for a one-hour movie and it didn’t feel as though either one was explored very well. If you just love Mickey Rooney’s tough kid with a heart of gold character, you’ll probably like this movie. Between dark video at times, flawed video at other times and a sense that the movie wasn’t ready to explore anything very deeply, I didn’t find it very satisfactory. $0.75.

I Cover the Waterfront, 1933, b&w. James Cruze (dir.), Ben Lyon, Claudette Colbert, Ernest Torrence, Hobart Cavanaugh, Maurice Black, Purnell Pratt. 1:15 [1:01].

The waterfront reporter promises his editor a big story on Chinese immigrants being smuggled. He winds up with a “bad lead” because the fishing captain involved is so ruthless he’ll cheerfully drown the immigrant rather than risk exposure. Eventually, he gets the story through a plot involving romancing the captain’s daughter; he also gets shot along the way. There’s a side story involving a drunken reporter who turns up in his apartment. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems scattered, possibly because of missing footage. It’s not bad, but hardly a classic in this rendition. $1.00.

So many connections, so little time

Posted in Technology and software on June 11th, 2008

How many internet transactions do you need to read a web page?

One? Sometimes. Maybe. But certainly not always, and I suspect we’re tending towards more connections per page rather than fewer.

You see it at the bottom of your browser screen (unless you have a very fast connection), as various addresses show up while the Firefox circle or IE flag keeps moving. If you’d asked, I would have said this blog requires one connection–or that’s what I would have said yesterday. That’s not quite right. There’s another connection for that little Worldcat.org search box in the corner–and probably one connection for each of the book covers at the bottom of the page.

I’m more acutely aware of this today because, well, I was becoming disconnected. Started for my wife last night–couldn’t get to Gmail, then could get to Gmail, then…. Or maybe for me yesterday afternoon, when for a while I could never get current Gmail to finish loading, so had to drop back to old-style Gmail.

This morning, it was much worse. PLN wasn’t there (and that’s my workplace)–but the Citrix Outlook session was. Gmail wasn’t there. Then Gmail was there. Then PLN was there, but Walt at Random and LISNews weren’t… and so it went.

I assumed a DNS problem, but in any case called AT&T (my DSL provider) when it didn’t get better–I couldn’t contact them via email, because that site wouldn’t come up. They tried a few things. I thought the situation was improving (although it would still take two or three tries to connect to some sites), so I said I’d call back if it continued.

It got worse after a while, and I did call back. (Yes, I’d unplugged the modem/router/wifi box and plugged it back in; yes, I’d done a flushdns and renew via ipconfig; yes, I’d flushed Firefox’ caches; yes, we’d checked that IE was having similar problems.)

That got me to Level 2 tech support, where the technician started directly testing my line–and eventually, with my permission, took control of the modem/router itself. Turns out it wasn’t a DNS problem. The three-year-old combined modem/router/wifi box was failing on about one of four pings, which means it was failing on about one of four internet connection attempts. Which would be ugly but livable for a day or two…if sites didn’t involve so many “silent connections.”

The tech noted that they expect modems to last an average of one or two years. That surprised me, but it’s true that the 2Wire combined modem/router/wifi box was, shall we say, not of apparent gemlike quality. (OK, other AT&T technicians had previously hinted that this long-since-replaced model was, well, a piece of junk. But the price was right: $50 with a $50 rebate.)

AT&T’s estore offered the replacement model–a whole lot more contemporary–for $79, plus $23 overnight shipping, plus tax (AT&T has physical nexuses EVERYWHERE), and I’d have it Friday. Or $13.95 shipping and I’d have it Monday. Ugh. But, as the tech had noted, Best Buy also sells the AT&T-specific 2Wire combo. And there’s a Best Buy nearby.

Turned out to be an easy choice. Best Buy wants $89 plus tax, and had the unit in stock. I figure I saved $13 and 1.5 days of hassle and nearly-useless internet. Since I make my living running a wiki, nearly-useless internet access is not a good thing. Paid the price, brought it home, read the instructions, wrote down the SSID and (carefully) the WEP key, plugged it in…

Fifteen minutes to open the box, replace the unit (I already had all the line filters from the old unit), connect to AT&T and validate the new SSID. Fifteen minutes on my wife’s notebook–well, maybe less than that–to identify the network and enter the WEP key and assure that the network and internet access were both working. (She could get mediocre access from other networks, probably including the citywide outdoor Google wifi, but this was the strongest signal.) All remarkably smooth, considering. (Now I should probably go check that the unit isn’t broadcasting the network name–but since it’s WEP-enabled, and we don’t use a lot of shared folders, it’s not critical…I don’t think.) Heck, I suppose I could have gone and worked outside, relying on Google connectivity, but I’d rather not.

And now there’s one less writing day before ALA…but I’m back to making all those “silent connections” without thinking about them.

Except that I’m likely to be subconsciously aware just how many connections really are involved in a typical web page.

Not fully back yet

Posted in Writing and blogging on June 10th, 2008

Violating my own guideline about not feeling the need to explain posting absences…

I’ve been out of town for the last two weeks (May 24-June 8, to be specific), cruising from Vancouver to Seward and back on the MS Zaandam, one of those “dam ships.” I’ll probably post about it later, maybe, if other pre-ALA deadlines don’t preclude it; for now, let’s just say that Holland America largely redeemed itself in our eyes. (This is a good thing.)

Other pre-ALA deadlines? A brief talk at an ALA program (a rare occasion for me, and it’s not a LITA program); that deserves a post and I need to write some notes for the talk. Also a column–technically not due until July 11, but that doesn’t leave much time post-ALA. And C&I (for which I already have 2/3 of a short issue), unless I postpone the July issue…

Anyway, I’m back…but I’m not quite. Just marking all outstanding blog posts on the absurd number of blogs I follow would be self-destructive, but plowing through 1,800+ posts wasn’t easy, even if I only really needed to read about 10% of them–and save maybe 60 for later consideration and use. Or, for three specific and related posts, a possible response…

One of those posts was from a first-rate liblogger who noted that they’re sort of blogged out at the moment. I commented that they weren’t alone. Maybe it’s early summer (yesterday was uncommonly warm for Mountain View, and of course we don’t have A/C here in paradise). Maybe it’s post-vacation letdown. I don’t think I’ve done any particularly topical posts, other than book-related posts, for a while now. That should change. Some day soon…

Enough. Time to get back on the treadmill (literally, followed by figuratively).

Thinking about books

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on June 7th, 2008

OK, so I’ve been remarketing the three primary Cites & Insights Books books.

Some of you might also find one or both of the big paperback C& I annuals worth buying, but you can look into those on your own. They’re bargains at $29.50, to be sure, and I do provide added value in each case–both glorious full-color covers and something that you can’t get otherwise in each volume.

Cites & Insights Books continues to be an experiment. I’m pondering where (if anywhere) to take that experiment next. (If an experiment can’t fail, it’s not really an experiment…)

At the moment, given essentially total silence, I’m somewhat inclined to believe there’s a reluctance to deal with the facts of most library blogs–that people would rather talk theory and mention two or three hand-picked examples. I discussed an alternate theory here–but there are other books about library blogs and blogging, so that one’s a little hard to accept. It’s also quite possible that I’ve done a lousy job describing the books or that I did a lousy job of doing them. I know I’ve done a lousy job of marketing them…

So here’s the thing.

  • I’m renewing the call for answers to the question posed here, and I won’t make any decisions until after ALA.
  • Alternatively, I wonder whether it would make sense to turn the two library blogging books into a single follow-on book that looks at how blogs changed from March-May 2007 to March-May 2008–that is, a similar longitudinal book but focusing on library blogs rather than liblogs.
  • Or I could say the hell with it and abandon the experiment for now…

Thoughts?

Oh: If there are readers who believe I’ve just been obsessing about book sales and futures for the last two weeks, be reassured: That’s not the case. I’m sure some of you (and a few LSW folks) will have figured out the reality:

My wife and I were in Alaska, along with a dear friend who’s also a librarian, during the last two weeks (we should get back shortly after this post appears). I wasn’t fretting about book sales. I also wasn’t blogging, although I was checking email (mostly work email) periodically–that is, I was if the ship’s internet cafe wasn’t too crowded.

These four posts used WordPress’ postdating capability so they’d appear during my absence.

Some semblance of normal posting–whatever that means for this blog–will resume the week of June 9, once I plow through email and paper mail and blog posts and work issues…

Academic Library Blogs: Still available

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on June 3rd, 2008

Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

Still available: Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples.

  • Price: $29.50 (or $20 for PDF download, only from Lulu)
  • Includes 231 English-language academic library blogs from 156 institutions.
  • Coverage rules same as for Public Library Blogs.
  • Similar metrics and inclusions–but this book also makes a few comparisons between academic and public library blogs. (I do not attempt to characterize academic institutions by size of user population or any other characterization.)
  • x+279 pages, 6×9, 60lb. cream paper.
  • Cover photo taken at Ephesus
  • If you need an ISBN or prefer Amazon, the Amazon/CreateSpace version is the same price and carries ISBN 978-1434832894. (Unlike earlier Amazon/CreateSpace versions, this one is also 60lb. cream book stock.)

This is, as far as I know, the broadest and only study of its kind–showing how academic libraries actually use blogs in scores of cases, not just theory and a few hand-picked examples.


Why you or your library should buy this book

For a library attached to a library school, I think it should be a no-brainer: A unique study that provides a broad basis for understanding actual use of blogs by academic libraries.

For 231 blogs in 156 institutions of higher education, you can see metrics including number of posts, length of posts, number of comments (if any) and use of illustrations. Additionally, I attempt to show how each blog links (or doesn’t) to its library’s home page (and vice-versa), special characteristics, and a sample post.

If you’re in an academic library that’s blogging or considering blogging, this book should help guide you to blogs you might want to use for inspiration–and some of the numbers may give you a bracing sense of reality as you set expectations.

If you’re speaking or writing about library blogging, this book will provide facts on actual blogging across a broad range of examples.

Possible scarcity or replacement:

This book came out January 15, 2008. As of mid-May, it’s sold 28 copies.

Depending on future sales of this book and Public Library Blogs and other factors (including feedback), I may or may not replace both books with a new library blogging book that looks at changes in blogs between March-May 2007 and March-May 2008.

Otherwise, this book will stay on sale for at least a year–but after that, it may be taken out of print if sales fall below an average of one copy a week. (At the very least, the Amazon version might disappear.)


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